For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
~ Psalm 16:10-11
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
~ John 12:26, John 14:3
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
~ John 17:24
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
~ Philippians 1:23, 2 Timothy 2:12
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
~ Revelation 7:17
Crossing to the Celestial City, by John Bunyan. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Pilgrim’s Progress”.
Now I saw in my dream that by this time, the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground and (were) entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season (Isa 62:4). Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land (Song 2:10-12). In this country, the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death and out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to; and here met them some of the inhabitants thereof. For in this land, the Shining Ones commonly walked because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also, the contract between the bride and the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them (Isa 62:5). Here they had no lack of corn and wine, for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage (v. 8). Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices, saying, “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him” (v. 11). Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, “The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD…Sought out,” etc. (v. 12).
Now, as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the kingdom to which they were bound; and drawing near to the city, they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls and precious stones, and the street thereof was paved with gold, so that by reason of the natural glory of the city and the reflection of the sunbeams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick. Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease. Wherefore, here they lay by it a while, crying out because of their pangs, “If ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love” (Song 5:8).
But being a little strengthened and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way and came yet nearer and nearer where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold, the gardener stood in the way, to whom the Pilgrims said, “Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these?” He answered, “They are the King’s and are planted here for His own delight, and also for the solace of pilgrims.” So, the gardener had them into the vineyards and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties (Deu 23:24). He also showed them there the King’s walks and the arbors where He delighted to be; and here they tarried and slept.
Now I beheld in my dream that they talked more in their sleep at this time than ever they did in all their journey; and being in a muse thereabout, the gardener said even to me, “Wherefore musest thou at the matter? It is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards to go down so sweetly, as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak.”
So, I saw that when they awoke, they addressed themselves to go up to the city. But, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the city—for “the city was pure gold” (Rev 21:18)—was so extremely glorious that they could not, as yet, with open face behold it but through an instrument made for that purpose (2Co 3:18). So, I saw that as they went on, there met them two men in raiment that shone like gold, and their faces shone as the light.
These men asked the Pilgrims whence they came, and they told them. They also asked them where they had lodged, what difficulties and dangers, what comforts and pleasures they had met in the way, and they told them. Then said the men that met them, “You have but two difficulties more to meet with, and then you are in the city.”
Christian, then, and his companion asked the men to go along with them, so they told them they would. “But,” said they, “you must obtain it by your own faith.” So, I saw in my dream that they went on together until they came in sight of the gate.
Now, I further saw that between them and the gate was a river, but there was no bridge to go over; the river was very deep. At the sight, therefore, of this river, the Pilgrims were much stunned; but the men that went with them said, “You must go through, or you cannot come at the gate.”
The Pilgrims then began to inquire if there was no other way to the gate; to which they answered, “Yes, but there hath not any, save two, to wit, Enoch and Elijah, been permitted to tread that path since the foundation of the world, nor shall, until the last trumpet shall sound” (1Co 15:51-52). The Pilgrims then, especially Christian, began to despond in their minds and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them by which they might escape the river. Then they asked the men if the waters were all of a depth. They said, “No.” Yet they could not help them in that case. “For,” said they, “you shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.”
They then addressed themselves to the water; and entering, Christian began to sink; and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, “I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head, all his waves go over me.” (see Psa 42:7). Selah.
Then said the other, “Be of good cheer, my brother; I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Then said Christian, “Ah, my friend. The sorrows of death have compassed me about (see Psa 116:3); I shall not see the land that flows with milk and honey.” And with that, a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him. And here, he in great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember, nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his pilgrimage. But all the words that he spake still tended to discover that he had horror of mind and heart fears that he should die in that river and never obtain entrance in at the gate. Here also, as they that stood by perceived, he was much in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that he had committed, both since and before he began to be a pilgrim. It was also observed that he was troubled with apparitions of hobgoblins and evil spirits; for, ever and anon, he would intimate so much by words. Hopeful, therefore, here had much ado to keep his brother’s head above water; yea, sometimes he would be quite gone down, and then, ere awhile, he would rise again half dead. Hopeful also would endeavour to comfort him, saying, “Brother, I see the gate and men standing by to receive us.” But Christian would answer, “It is you; it is you they wait for; you have been Hopeful ever since I knew you.” “And so have you,” said he to Christian. “Ah, brother.” said he, “surely if I were right, He would now arise to help me; but for my sins, He hath brought me into the snare and hath left me.” Then said Hopeful, “My brother, you have quite forgot the text where it is said of the wicked, ‘There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men’ (Psa 73:4-5). These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of His goodness and live upon Him in your distresses.”
Then I saw in my dream that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom also Hopeful added this word, “Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.” And with that, Christian brake out with a loud voice, “Oh. I see Him again, and He tells me, ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isa 43:2). Then they both took courage; and the enemy was after that as still as a stone until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus, they got over.
Now, upon the bank of the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again, who there waited for them; wherefore, being come out of the river, they saluted them, saying, “We are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those that shall be heirs of salvation.” Thus, they went along towards the gate. Now you must note that the city stood upon a mighty hill, but the Pilgrims went up that hill with ease because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms; also, they had left their mortal garments behind them in the river, for though they went in with them, they came out without them. They, therefore, went up here with much agility and speed, though the foundation upon which the city was framed was higher than the clouds. They, therefore, went up through the regions of the air, sweetly talking as they went, being comforted because they safely got over the river and had such glorious companions to attend them.
The talk they had with the Shining Ones was about the glory of the place, who told them that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible. “There,” said they, “is the ‘mount Sion…the heavenly Jerusalem…an innumerable company of angels…and to the spirits of just men made perfect’ ” (Heb 12:22-24). “You are going now,” said they, “to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof; and when you come there, you shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity (Rev 2:7; 3:4; 22:5). There you shall not see again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon the earth, to wit, sorrow, sickness, affliction, and death, ‘for the former things are passed away’ (Rev 21:4). You are now going to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets—men that God hath taken away from the evil to come and that are now resting upon their beds, each one walking in his righteousness” (Isa 57:1-2; 65:17).
The men then asked, “What must we do in the holy place?” To whom it was answered, “You must there receive the comforts of all your toil and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, tears, and sufferings for the King by the way (Gal 6:7). In that place, you must wear crowns of gold and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One, for there you shall see Him as He is (1Jo 3:2). There also you shall serve Him continually with praise, with shouting and thanksgiving, Whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your friends again that are gone thither before you; and there you shall with joy receive even everyone that follows into the holy place after you. There also shall you be clothed with glory and majesty and put into an equipage fit to ride out with the King of glory. When He shall come with sound of trumpet in the clouds as upon the wings of the wind, you shall come with Him; and when He shall sit upon the throne of judgment, you shall sit by Him; yea, and when He shall pass sentence upon all the workers of iniquity, let them be angels or men, you also shall have a voice in that judgment because they were His and your enemies (1Th 4:13-17; Jude 14; Dan 7:9-10; 1Co 6:2-3). And when He shall again return to the city, you shall go too with sound of trumpet and be ever with Him.”
Now, while they were thus drawing towards the gate, behold, a company of the heavenly host came out to meet them, to whom it was said by the other two Shining Ones, “These are the men that have loved our Lord when they were in the world and that have left all for His holy name; and He hath sent us to fetch them, and we have brought them thus far on their desired journey that they may go in and look their Redeemer in the face with joy.” Then the heavenly host gave a great shout, saying, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). There came out also at this time to meet them several of the King’s trumpeters, clothed in white and shining raiment, who, with melodious noises and loud, made even the heavens to echo with their sound. These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with 10,000 welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting and sound of trumpet.
This done, they compassed them round on every side; some went before, some behind, and some on the right hand, some on the left (as it were to guard them through the upper regions), continually sounding as they went with melodious noise, in notes on high, so that the very sight was to them that could behold it, as if heaven itself was come down to meet them. Thus, therefore, they walked on together; and as they walked, ever and anon these trumpeters, even with joyful sound, would, by mixing their music with looks and gestures, still signify to Christian and his brother how welcome they were into their company and with what gladness they came to meet them. And now were these two men, as it were, in heaven, before they came at it, being swallowed up with the sight of angels and with hearing of their melodious notes. Here also they had the city itself in view, and they thought they heard all the bells therein to ring to welcome them thereto. But above all, the warm and joyful thoughts that they had about their own dwelling there with such company, and that forever and ever. Oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed. And thus, they came up to the gate.
Now when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it in letters of gold, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev 22:14).
Then I saw in my dream that the Shining Men bid them call at the gate; the which, when they did, some looked from above over the gate, to wit, Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, etc., to whom it was said, “These pilgrims are come from the City of Destruction, for the love that they bear to the King of this place.” And then the pilgrims gave in unto them each man his certificate, which they had received in the beginning; those, therefore, were carried into the King, Who, when He had read them, said, “Where are the men?” To whom it was answered, “They are standing without the gate.” The King then commanded to open the gate, “That the righteous nation,” said He, “which keepeth the truth, may enter in” (Isa 26:2).
Now I saw in my dream that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also that met them with harps and crowns and gave them to them—the harps to praise withal and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy and that it was said unto them, “Enter ye into the joy of your lord” (see Mat 25:21, 23). I also heard the men themselves that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb, for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13).
Now just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and, behold, the City shone like the sun. The streets also were paved with gold, and in them walked many men with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord” (see Rev 4:8). And after that, they shut up the gates, which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.
Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back and saw Ignorance come up to the river side. But he soon got over and that without half that difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place one Vain-hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over; so he, as the other I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate, only he came alone; neither did any man meet him with the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence came you? and what would you have? He answered, I have eaten and drank in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate that they might go in and show it to the King; so, he fumbled in his bosom for one and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but He would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.